HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - WHNT News 19 has learned that the Madison County Sheriff's Office reached out to Huntsville Police this week, asking HPD to take over the investigation into the 2013 killing of Jason Klonowski, an outspoken critic of the sheriff's office. We have also confirmed that Huntsville Police declined the request, saying if there were impropriety on the part of the sheriff's office, it wouldn't be appropriate for HPD to investigate.
Klonowski was found dead outside of his Harvest home in November 2013. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene, but it took nearly two days for the case to be called a homicide. Investigators believe Klonowski had been shot multiple times in the back of the head a few days before the body was discovered.
In the weeks before his death, Klonowski became increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Madison County Sheriff's Office after his friend, Robert Bryant, was beaten and bloodied during a traffic stop in 2012. Former deputy Justin Watson was sentenced to three years in prison in connection to that case. He entered a guilty plea to obstruction of justice charges in connection with the beating. Bryant also sued Watson, Sheriff Blake Dorning and several deputies. He and his lawyer reached a $625,000 settlement with Madison County.
The Madison County Sheriff's Office confirms it made the request for the Huntsville Police Department to take over the investigation of the unsolved murder of Klonowski. However, HPD Lt. Michael Johnson confirms his department will not take charge because there is "still the opportunity for agencies with higher authority to take over the case."
Madison County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Donny Shaw tells WHNT a meeting between a Huntsville private investigator, Sheriff Blake Dorning, and Criminal Investigation Division Cpt. Michael Salomonsky took place last week.
On June 18, Salomonsky asked HPD Criminal Investigation Division, Cpt. Mike Izzo, to take over the investigation. Shaw says they made the decision for the sake of "transparency and a fresh set of investigators to look over the investigative process that the sheriff's office has already gone through." However, Shaw says an investigator from the Madison County Sheriff's office will stay assigned to the case regardless of which agency takes the lead on the investigation.
Lt. Johnson says Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray contacted Sheriff Blake Dorning to inform him HPD would not take the case. Johnson says McMurray's reasoning for declining the investigation is he didn't feel HPD would be the appropriate agency to investigate it if there was impropriety regarding the handling of the case by the sheriff's office. Johnson adds that McMurray has complete faith in Sheriff Dorning's ability to investigate the unsolved murder.
We asked the Madison County Sheriff's Office if there is any reason to believe the Klonowski case wasn't investigated properly. Lt. Donny Shaw tells WHNT his office "does not have concerns of any type of impropriety in regard to the handling of the case."